Port Richey believes it needs civility in its City Council meetings. ¶ On Tuesday, the council voted 5-0 advocating proper decorum in its meetings. And, just like portions of the city charter, the resolution contained no punitive clauses for council members who misbehave.
The symbolic gesture was short-lived, anyway. Here is council member Dale Massad's idea of civility: He questioned council member Mark Hashim's motivation for asking council members to return their $360 monthly salaries to the city.
"I find it rather disturbing, quite frankly," Massad said Tuesday evening. "Dr. Hashim, in all due respect, you (ran for council) on (a platform for) dissolution, and now you're showing passion for the city?"
Massad could use a little of that passion. Hashim has advocated cost-cutting and money-saving ideas since his election 11 months ago, and he continues to demonstrate an agenda of acting in the public's best interests.
Massad's agenda does not withstand similar scrutiny. His more than four years in office are most notable for cronyism and poor judgment. Here is a sample:
• Before assuming public office, he joined three sitting council members, the city manager and city attorney for post-council-meeting drinks at the Seaside Inn. Massad said he saw nothing wrong with the gathering even if it did create the appearance of impropriety. The public later learned that two of the council members at the tavern had, on other occasions, held private conversations about public business.
• During his initial tenure on the council, he asked city manager Vince Lupo to become a volunteer director of Massad's nonpofit group, Africare Environmed, because of the city manager's supposed grant-writing expertise. Lupo officially joined a little more than a month after Massad voted with the rest of the council to give Lupo a 20 percent raise. Lupo later departed from the group after a series of successful hunting safaris in Africa and state records indicate the corporation dissolved in 2003.
• In 2002, Massad voted to pave the way for the owners of the gambling boats that operate from Port Richey's waterfront to circumvent county ordinance and operate marathon bingo sessions within the city. Those special-interest beneficiaries contributed $10,000 to Massad's pet project — dredging the city canals — after his vote to ease the bingo restrictions.
When the city actions came to light, and 70 legitimate charities worried about their fundraising capabilities being diminished by a commercial bingo hall, Massad continued to defend the Port Richey ordinance and was on the short end of a 4-1 vote repealing it .
• Last summer, Massad joined city attorney James Mathieu — the live-in boyfriend of council member Nancy Britton — in ownership of a waterfront home they said they intended to rehabilitate and sell for a profit. Two months later, the business arrangement prevented Massad from voting on retaining Mathieu as interim city manager. Massad sought a state Ethics Commission opinion on the conflict only after a Times reporter asked him about it.
He recently joined council member Nancy Britton in championing city acquisition of an overpriced, vacant, dilapidated mobile home park even though the city had no plans for how to use the land.
• Massad advocated the city spend $5,000 to hire a law firm he recommended to study the work of a consultant on the canal-dredging project. It was a thinly veiled attempt to provide political cover for Massad over the mismanaged dredging permit applications, which are still pending after several years and $465,000 in city spending.
• Most duplicitous of all, Massad signed a petition calling for a referendum to disband the city government after losing his 2004 re-election and now wonders about Hashim's loyalty to the municipal government after supporting a similar referendum.
In all due respect, and in our most civil tone, we suggest Massad look in the mirror the next time he finds a council member's actions disturbing.